NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Friday revealed the 2020 MLS Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position as determined by media, MLS players and MLS club technical staff.
The 11 players named to the Best XI hail from seven countries and represent talent comprised of Homegrown talents, international stars and breakout players. For the first time in MLS history, three Homegrown Players have also been selected to the Best XI.
New York City FC’s Anton Tinnerholm, considered the best right back in the league by many observers, did not make the team.
In fact, no player from the Red Bulls or NYCFC earned Best XI honors.
The Best XI:
Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defenders: Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew SC), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)
Midfielders: Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Diego Chará (Portland Timbers), Nicolás Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC), Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC)
Forwards: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Diego Rossi (Los Angeles Football Club), Raúl Ruidíaz (Seattle Sounders FC).
For the first time in MLS history, three Homegrown Players make up part of the MLS Best XI with Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie (both Philadelphia Union) and Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC) named to the team. At age 20 years, 29 days, Aaronson is the youngest player ever selected to a Best XI.
The Union, which recorded the best overall record this season, placed three players on the Best XI, including goalkeeper Andre Blake, the winner of the goalkeeper of the year. Blake recorded a league best 0.88 goals-against average as he was named to the MLS Best XI for a second time.
McKenzie anchored the league’s best defense (20 goals allowed in 23 games) in his third season in the league. Joining him was Walker Zimmerman, who won the MLS defender of the year honors after helping expansion Nashville SC to a berth in the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs in its inaugural season. The club set a record for the best defensive performance by a first-year club in MLS history. The third member of the defensive group is Jonathan Mensah of Columbus Crew SC, a two-time World Cup participant who was named to the Best XI for the first time.
All five finalists for the 2020 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player award were named to the Best XI, including two members of the midfield corps.
Nicolás Lodeiro, one of three players from Seattle Sounders FC in the Best XI, is a finalist for league MVP honors after also finishing in a tie for the assist lead with 10. He became the sixth player in MLS history to record 10 or more assists in at least four consecutive seasons. Alejandro Pozuelo of Toronto FC was named to the team for a second successive year, tying for the league lead with 10 assists while also finishing in a tie for eighth with nine goals. Along with Aaronson, who scored four goals and added seven assists in his second MLS campaign after signing as a Homegrown Player, the midfield group also features Diego Chará of the Portland Timbers, who received his first Best XI nod in his 10th MLS season.
Diego Rossi of Los Angeles Football Club, the winner of the MLS Golden Boot with 14 goals, leads the forward trio. Earlier this year he also won the Golden Boot in the MLS is Back Tournament. Raúl Ruidíaz of Seattle Sounders FC finished in a tie for second place in the Golden Boot race with 12 goals, the third time in his three MLS seasons he has scored 10 or more goals or more. He was joined by teammate Morris, who tied for fifth in the goals race with 10 in his fifth season after signing as a Homegrown Player.
Eight of the players named to the Best XI presented are first-time selections, with Blake, Pozuelo and Zimmerman each making their second appearances. Three of the players (Lodeiro, Mensah, Ruidíaz) have played in the FIFA World Cup. In addition to the record three Homegrown Players, two were selected in the MLS SuperDraft, both in the first seven selections overall (Blake, No. 1, 2014; Zimmerman, No. 7, 2013). Among the seven countries represented on the Best XI, four are from the USA, two from Uruguay, with one each from Colombia, Ghana, Jamaica, Peru and Spain.
2020 MLS Best XI bios:
Andre Blake | Goalkeeper | Philadelphia Union | Nationality: Jamaica | Born: November 21, 1990
Blake won MLS Goalkeeper of the Year honors for a second time in leading the Union to the best overall record in the league in 2020. Blake posted a 77.8 save percentage and allowed 18 goals in his regular season appearances for an 0.88 goals allowed average, both league-bests for goalkeepers with 20 or more appearances on the year. The 29-year-old’s 13 goalkeeper wins also led MLS. The captain of Jamaica’s national team, Blake was the first goalkeeper ever selected No. 1 overall in the MLS SuperDraft. This is Blake’s second MLS Best XI selection (2016).
Mark McKenzie | Defender | Philadelphia Union | Nationality: USA | Born: February 25, 1999
Now in his third season in MLS, McKenzie was signed as a Homegrown player before the 2018 season after progressing through the Union academy. McKenzie anchored a backline which saw just 20 goals conceded over the course of the season as the Union finished atop the MLS overall standings and were presented with the Supporters’ Shield. McKenzie was this year named a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year honors after being named a finalist for Rookie of the Year in 2018. This is McKenzie’s first Best XI selection.
Jonathan Mensah | Defender | Columbus Crew SC | Nationality: Ghana | Born: July 13, 1990
An experienced center back who appeared in two FIFA World Cups with Ghana, Mensah is in his fourth MLS season. He was ever-present for Crew SC this season, a vital cog in a backline which posted nine shutouts in 23 matches, tied for the most in the league, and was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year. Mensah played in Russia, France and Spain before moving to MLS, and appeared in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups for Ghana, which he has represented 63 times as a full international. This is Mensah’s first Best XI selection.
Walker Zimmerman | Defender | Nashville SC | Nationality: USA | Born: May 19, 1993
The winner of the MLS Defender of the Year award for 2020, Zimmerman was the heart of the Nashville SC team which became one of seven expansion sides to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs. Zimmerman scored the first goal in Nashville’s MLS history, and was the center of a stout defense that set the record for the lowest goals against average ever for a first-year MLS team (0.96 goals allowed per game). Zimmerman scored three goals on the year in winning the Defender of the Year award after finishing as runner-up last season while playing with the Los Angeles Football Club. This is Zimmerman’s second MLS Best XI selection (2019).
Brenden Aaronson | Midfielder | Philadelphia Union | Nationality: USA | Born: October 22, 2000
A technical playmaker who can run all day, Aaronson is in his second season in MLS after signing as a Homegrown Player late in 2018. Aaronson scored four goals and added seven assists in 2020, starting all 23 games for the Union as they laid claim to the Supporters’ Shield with the league’s best record overall. In his first MLS season, Aaronson had three goals and two assists in 28 appearances, following that campaign with his first U.S. national team cap this February. This is Aaronson’s first Best XI selection.
Diego Chará I Midfielder l Portland Timbers l Nationality: Colombia l Born: April 4, 1986
In his 10th season in Major League Soccer, Chara has been named to the Best XI for the first time. A tenacious holding midfielder, Chara recorded a single-season career-high six assists to go with one goal, starting 20 matches for the Timbers. Chara also made history with brother Yimmi, in his first season in MLS, when the pair combined on goals twice during the season, the fifth time brothers were part of the same scoring play. Chara came to MLS from his native Colombia, for which he made two national team appearances.
Nicolás Lodeiro | Midfielder | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: Uruguay | Born: March 21, 1989
Lodeiro was tied for the lead in assists in MLS in 2020 with 10, leading Sounders FC to a record 12th appearance in the MLS Cup Playoffs in the club’s 12th season in the league. In his fifth season in the league, Lodeiro has recorded double figures in assists in each of the last four years, one of just six players in MLS history to record double digits in assists in that many consecutive seasons. A member of the Uruguay squad in the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups, Lodeiro has won 60 full international caps and scored 5 goals. He was named the 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year after joining the Sounders midseason from Boca Juniors in Argentina, sparking the club’s run to a first MLS Cup that year, before winning a second last season. This is Lodeiro’s first Best XI selection.
Alejandro Pozuelo l Midfielder l Toronto FC l Nationality: Spain l Born: September 20, 1991
Pozuelo tied for the MLS lead in assists with 10 while finishing tied for eighth in the MLS Golden Boot race with nine goals. Pozuelo was ever-present for Toronto FC this season, starting all 23 games as the club finished second in the overall MLS standings. The 29-year-old is in his second season in MLS, finishing his debut campaign in 2019 with 12 goals and 12 assists. With experience in the English Premier League with Swansea and in Spain’s La Liga with Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and with Belgium’s KRC Genk, this is Pozuelo’s second MLS Best XI selection (2019).
Jordan Morris | Forward | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: USA | Born: October 26, 1994
Morris finished tied for fifth in the MLS Golden Boot race with 10 goals in 2020, the third time in his five MLS seasons he’s scored in double figures. Morris also added a single-season career-best eight assists, tied for fifth-most in the league. Signed as a Homegrown player following his NCAA College Cup championship season at Stanford in 2016, Morris has also scored 10 goals in 39 appearances for the U.S. national team. This is the first Best XI selection for Morris.
Diego Rossi | Forward | Los Angeles Football Club | Nationality: Uruguay | Born: March 5, 1998
The winner of the MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi, Rossi scored 14 goals in 2020. During the MLS is Back Tournament, Rossi was involved in five goals (four goals, one assist) in LAFC’s 6-2 win vs. archrivals LA Galaxy, becoming the first player in MLS history to have played a part in five goals in two separate games, while also becoming the 13th player in MLS history to score at least four goals in a game. Rossi was named the Young Player of the Tournament in the MLS is Back event, also winning the MLS is Back Golden Boot. After signing as a Young Designated Player from Penarol in his native Uruguay for the 2018 season, Rossi has scored 42 goals in his MLS career, with double figures in goals in each of his three years in the league. This is Rossi’s first Best XI selection.
Raul Ruidíaz | Forward | Seattle Sounders FC | Nationality: Peru | Born: July 25, 1990
In his third season in Major League Soccer, Ruidíaz once again hit for double figures in goals, finishing in a tie for second place in the MLS Golden Boot race with 12 goals. After signing as a Designated Player from Monarcas Morelia in Mexico midway through the 2018 season, Ruidíaz scored 10 goals in his first campaign, then netted 11 during the regular season last year and led all players with four goals in the 2019 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, finishing off the Sounders’ 3-1 victory against Toronto FC in MLS Cup for the club’s second title. Ruidíaz is a regular in Peru’s national team, with four goals in 43 international appearances. This is Ruidíaz’s first Best XI selection.